Obstructed intestine as a reservoir for systemic infection.

American Journal of Surgery
E A DeitchR D Specian


Intestinal motility, absorption, and secretion are altered after intestinal obstruction, but at what point the normal bacterial barrier function of the viable gut fails after intestinal obstruction is unclear. Thus, we tested whether after simple intestinal obstruction bacteria would translocate across the viable intestinal wall to cause systemic infection. Within 6 hours of intestinal ligation 1 cm proximal or distal to the ileocecal valve, bacteria had translocated to the mesenteric lymph nodes, and by 24 hours after intestinal obstruction, bacteria had spread to the liver, spleen, and blood stream. Bacterial translocation rarely occurred in the animals undergoing laparotomy and sham intestinal ligation, indicating that bacterial translocation was not due to surgical stress. Based on the results of these studies, bacterial translocation induced by intestinal obstruction appears to be due to disruption of the ecology of the normal gut microflora, leading to intestinal overgrowth with certain enteric bacilli and mucosal damage. Although the exact mechanism(s) by which simple mechanical obstruction injures the intestine is not known, the fact that mucosal injury did not occur in germ-free mice suggests that bacteria may play a r...Continue Reading


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